So, you write? You did a bit of creative-writing years ago, or maybe Access Course English. Or even a degree but you’ve not done it for a while? You’re embarrassed about showing it to your friends but you want a bit of a push in the right direction. Well guess what, I might be able to help.
First of all bear in mind it’s harder to publish novels now than it’s ever been – why? Well the internet of course, that – the rubbish economy – and well the competition – (Peter Andre and Jordan) no seriously publishers want to publish people who already have a following so they don’t have to market them that hard.
‘Oh is that why they publish footballer’s lives?’
‘Yep. Not ‘cause they’re brilliant, but because they’ve sold 50,000 before the critics have had time to see that it is, or isn’t, brilliant. Other than Wayne Rooney certain other types of books have a following like self-help and mind-body-spirit things. Oh and child wizards who go to private school apparently. Straight literary fiction is the big bottleneck. Millions of people vying for one or two places.
So I do an MA, which not everyone can afford, (between £2,500 and £4,500). I’m not saying that’s going to get you published, the guys who sign you up admit that alone will not get you published. And be aware when people say ‘I’ve got an MA don’t you know,’ it don’t mean they’re good. It means they got a few pennies in the bank. And I go to writers groups, which I know are not everyone’s cup-of-tea. The critique can be harsh.
So what are your other options to get a step on with your writing?
This is a website where you post your work and as long as you keep critiquing other stories you get yours critiqued. It’s free (but a big platform for vanity publishing, just ignore the adverts.) but the quality of critiques has gone down recently (in my view) as it has got more famous.
Or you can pay to have your work critiqued by a pro. I’m not going to post links here but basic advice is if you’re going to part with £200-£500 to have a novel or portion of one critiqued then make sure it is a service offered by an agents or publishers you have heard of, rather than ‘Buddy’ from Arkansas who has a really colourful website! When I was sending my novels off I noticed a few agents had become critiquing services, they’d be the ones I’d try.
OR – In the month of August I am offering to critique your fiction for free!! Either one or two poems, not exceeding 1000 words or a piece of fiction. Sorry but that’s capped at a thousand words too. Maybe you send me 2-3000 words if you don’t want to break it up, but I’ll only do in-depth look at a portion of it. How do you do this and take advantage of a publishing, self employed writer giving you a bit of a kick in the right direction? Here’s a checklist:
!. Make sure you’ve reread your work. Say it’s a poem about a wedding you attended – read it out to yourself aloud. Make sure it sounds right and you don’t have to try six times to spit a line out.
2. So you wrote the poem when you got home, drunk, from the wedding? You need to seriously look at the imagery. When you saw the bride she looked ‘like a wedding cake’ well that’s no good…a cloud? Still no good. Poems have already been written with these images in. A swan? Better, what about a fleck of sheep’s-wool caught on a barbed wire fence? Okay that’s probably too far (unless you despise the groom and his family), but the first thing that comes into your head is often not the best. Think. Same applies to prose.
3. Read a book: if your writing novels churn through novels, if short stories read all the best short stories (look back through my past blog posts), and if poems the most recent poems (not Matthew Arnold and Emily Bronte)
4. Read another book – this time a guide to writing, the best are Self Editing for the Fiction Writer, Stephen Kings ‘On Writing’ and if you’ve written a novel, the Weekend Novelist. There’s loads, Peter Sansome wrote one about poetry.
5. Finally subscribe to my blog, since I will in the future put more advice about writing, and more importantly keep you updated with publishers and competitions. Make sure you hit the subscribe button and input the same email you email me your story with because I’ll check the emails before critiquing. If you send me your work without subscribing I won’t open it. Ha.
6. Finally send me your 1000 words or less, of poetry and prose to email@example.com
Then what will happen?
Maybe I’ll say, wow this is brilliant! And if I’ve heard of any competitions/publishers that would suit you recently I’ll send you a link. Or I’ll say this needs a line-edit (that means your English isn’t perfect or your prose isn’t up to scratch) and you should read through it carefully. Or I’ll say your imagery isn’t sophisticated enough if your bride is still a wedding cake, the trees are like fingers and the house’s windows are like eyes. Or I might say you need a big structural edit. Which means you’re not at the line edit stage, you need to rethink your story and go back to the drawing board. So you have to be thick skinned because I will detail more of the flaws your writing possesses. It isn’t any use if I just say your work is nice. I don’t want hate mail afterwards. It is just my opinion, either use it or ignore it don’t start telling me you were at a dinner party with Martin Amis and he read it and said it was a tour-de-force, or Darley Anderson lives next door to you and he’s offering you a million for the rights but your holding out for a better offer.
Good Luck. Offer ends end of August.